On air
  • RFI English Live
  • RFI French Live

Crime France Britain Military Theft

Issued on • Modified

British soldier-turned-burglar hides in French woods for 5 months

The sun sets in the Vienne region, where Surin is situated Reuters/Regis Duvignau

A former British soldier has been arrested after hiding in a camouflaged tent in woods near a French village for five months. The 51-year-old went on the run after being sentenced to 15 months in jail for some 40 burglaries.

Villagers found the man when they organised a game-hunters' style drive through woods around Surin in western France.

The village's deputy mayor noticed broken branches near the mobile home where the man lived before his arrest and gendarmes found a tent covered by tarpaulins.

He surrendered without a struggle.

"This man had been in the British army. We think he benefited from his military past to set up this camp and hide," commented gendarmerie captain Benjamin Duval.

Tent in the woods

The man was first arrested after a series of burglaries in the village in April 2017.

But he failed to turn up to his trial on 4 January.

He was given a 15-month prison sentence in his absence but managed to elude the police for five months.

Although an international arrest warrant was issued, Surin residents were convinced he was still in the area by the fact that the thefts started again.

Although he never used violence, "children and old people were frightened", Surin mayor Claudie Memin said, adding that one couple was burgled eight times.

A total of 200 stolen objects - including a television operating by a car battery, some new computers, several gas bottles, cooking utensils, jewellery and silverware - were found in his tent after his arrest.

He was jailed on Tuesday night and will face a new trial for the thefts perpetrated since he was last sentenced.